Sharing Skills and Culture

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April 29, 2019
Basel, Abdel and Mahmoud together on the work site

It’s an exciting time for Basel, Adbel and Mahmoud.  This week they are all graduating from GRID Alternatives’ Solar Training Program which they started in November 2018. They first heard about the program through friends and quickly signed up. The opportunity to learn solar was a welcome change of pace from the country club restaurant where they were working as chef’s assistants, an atmosphere they said was often stifling.

“I like to work outdoors and be challenged,” Basel explained. “I didn’t want to just work at the restaurant, inside a building, and feel like I’m not doing anything good for my life, for my future.”  

For the trainees, working in the solar industry meant a chance to develop an invaluable skill set, all while meeting new people and building comradery.  Meeting new people was especially important to the trainees as they navigated a new culture and language. All three are originally from Syria and have lived in different parts of the United States for the last couple of years.

Upon arriving in the US, they all say they found it hard to meet people because of the language barrier and cultural differences.  At the restaurant they encountered other newcomers with similar struggles. Working at GRID they say they were able to meet a variety of people with different cultural mindsets.  “At the restaurant, it's the same people everyday,” says Basel. “Now I’ve met more than 100 people with GRID. And a bunch have become good friends.”

The unique, hands-on training provided by GRID fosters an environment where trainees, volunteers and staff from various walks of life find commonality and networks through their journey of learning industry-relevant skills.

Trainees celebrate graduation in the warehouse, holding up certificates alongside GRID employee, Erica Cook
Trainees celebrate their graduation in the warehouse alongside GRID Construction Assistant, Erica Cook

What has made GRID especially exciting for the trainees was their immediate introduction to the roof. “I was excited by my first experience,” says Abdel. “Some of the equipment was uncomfortable, but it got easier over time. The roof is my favorite place to work because it’s so demanding.”  But they were all flexible and attentive as they’ve learned panel installation as well as ground tasks such as wiring inverter boxes and positioning ground rods.

One thing is for sure, the three of them understand the importance of solar as it relates to  people, planet and employment. “Solar is important; it helps people with their bills”, says Basel.  “It helps people who don’t have work find all types of jobs. It helped us learn English faster!”

Basel, Mahmoud and Abdel are enthusiastic about solar because of the many work opportunities ahead of them.  “I envision a good future with solar,” says Mahmoud. “It’s my passion, so I know I will work hard and do my best.” With all they’ve learned, we know they’ll go far!